Buying Guide

Common vacuum cleaner problems

Vacuum Cleaner Basics

To choose the right vacuum cleaner, start by looking at the basic components of your home. First, consider the size of your home. Bigger homes may require a larger, more powerful upright vacuum for complete cleaning. Next, think about stairs. If you have a multilevel home, consider a stick vacuum — it will be easier to move from floor to floor. Then, think about floor surface. Homes with a variety of floor surfaces need a vacuum that can adapt to different floor types. Don't forget about your pets: vacuums designed to deal with pet hair and dander can make cleaning a lot easier.

Types of Vacuums

Hopefully you now have a better sense of what you may want your new vacuum cleaner to accomplish. Check out the available types, their benefits and general usage.

Upright Vacuums

Upright vacuums are the most popular type of vacuum and can be found in many homes and apartments today. They are usually the best vacuum type for removing dust and dirt from carpeting, and can clean large areas of carpet quickly. They are also good for area rugs and hard floors.

There are two types of upright vacuums: single-motor and dual-motor. On a single-motor upright vacuum, the brush and the vacuum are driven by one motor. With a dual-motor upright, the vacuum and the brush are driven by separate motors, giving you more power and suction to clean carpets better.

Upright vacuums come in different styles and sizes and many offer a variety of features:

Brush on/off switch: Helps protect the finish of bare floors.

Cleaner head height adjustment: Some upright models adjust this automatically as you move to different floor types, so you don't have to bend down to change settings. Others let you control it manually, which is best for plush carpet; if the cleaner head sinks too deeply into the carpet, it can be difficult to maneuver the vacuum.

Suction control: This feature is useful when using tools to clean draperies and upholstery.

Things to Consider

After you've looked at the three basic components of your home — size, stairs and floor surface, think about your lifestyle and personal needs next to help determine which vacuum is best for you. Here's a quick list of considerations to get you started:

Vacuuming Schedule

You probably don’t have time to vacuum every day. But if you do, a lightweight stick vacuum might be enough to maintain a clean home. However, if you vacuum less frequently, you might consider a larger upright or canister vacuum with a more powerful motor to ensure thorough cleaning. Or, if you would like to vacuum every day but don't have the time, check out a programmable robotic vacuum that will take care of business while you're away.


If seasonal allergies or sensitivity to dust and mites are problems, there are options that can help. You will want to choose a vacuum cleaner that is HEPA certified. Be sure to change or clean the filter at least every six months, and perhaps even more often, if your allergies are severe. And, to save money, consider a vacuum with a washable filter.


If you dislike loud noises, or live in an apartment complex where excessive noise will disturb neighbors, there are vacuums available that will run quiet but still have the power to clean. The best way to compare noise levels is to check the product specifications or ask a salesperson for the decibel level (dB). A vacuum with a decibel level in the 60-65 dB range will be extremely quiet, while a vacuum with a decibel level in the 70s will compare to a kitchen garbage disposal.


Weight is another important consideration when choosing a vacuum cleaner. Some full-size upright models can weigh more than 20 pounds while lightweight stick models are often less than 10 pounds. If you have a multilevel home and need to haul the vacuum up and down stairs, you can find powerful upright vacuums that are lighter in weight, but they'll often have fewer attachments and features.

Handheld & Stick Vacuums

The smallest and lightest options available, handheld and stick vacuums are often cordless, and are convenient for a variety of cleaning tasks around the house.

Handheld vacuums

Great for cleaning closets, upholstery, vents, blinds or car interiors, handheld vacuums are made for above-the-floor cleaning. You can use them for cleaning up small spills, getting cobwebs out of corners or vacuuming dirt out of windowsills.

Stick vacuums

Best for high-traffic floors that need a daily once-over, stick vacuums have the same design as an upright, but are much lighter in weight and usually don’t come with attachments. If you have a multilevel home, you may also want a stick vacuum on the second floor to eliminate the need to carry a vacuum up a flight of stairs.

Some new stick vacuum models have been designed with handheld features, making it easy to clean stairs, ceiling fans and more.

Robot Vacuums and Mops

If the thought of housecleaning makes you cringe, a robot vacuum might be right for you. A robot vacuum is self-propelled and programmable, so you don't have to do any of the work. You just set the schedule and it does the rest. It uses sensors to avoid obstacles and stairs and can easily clean underneath furniture.

Ideal for busy people, you can simply program the robot vacuum and then spend your time with family and friends. Robot vacuums are also good for homes with a lot of dust where a quick clean might be necessary every day. Self-propelled models may also be a good option for anyone unable to push an upright vacuum.

Program the robot to start and stop wherever you want it to go. Most will even travel from carpet to hard surfaces and back again.

There are also robot mops for hard floors and other automated devices that can clean your windows, swimming pool and gutters. These cleaners make life a little easier, allowing you to spend less time on your chores and more time with your family.

Canister Vacuums

Canister, or cylinder, vacuums have the motor and bag in a separate unit, which is usually mounted on wheels to help with maneuverability. The canister is connected to the vacuum head by a flexible hose.

Canister vacuums tend to be lighter than other vacuum designs, plus they have a highly maneuverable power head that can reach tight spots with ease. This style is perfect for vacuuming hard-to-reach spots and furniture. It is even good for cleaning cars and drapes.

Commercial & Garage Vacuums

Often called shop vacs, commercial and garage vacuums offer extra power for professional-sized messes. Clean up sawdust in the basement, dirt and water in the garage or any other mess, wet or dry.

To choose the right commercial or garage vacuum, think about how you will use it and where it will be stored. Capacities range from mini one-gallon models to greater than 10 gallons. Smaller models will be easier to store and move around, but they won't be able to handle the biggest messes.

Accessories and Attachments

Are you looking for a vacuum that does much more than just suck up dirt and dust on the floor? Do you want to clean drapes, sofas and chairs, dust shelves, and get into all the cracks and crevices in your home? To do all that, you need the right attachments. Some attachments to consider are:

Crevice tool for cleaning corners and tight spaces

Dusting brush used to gently dust shelves and tables

Upholstery tool for vacuuming your furniture without damaging

Turbo brush offers deep cleaning for longer carpets

Cleaning solution

Latest Technology

If you've ever wanted a powerful vacuum with the convenience of a cordless design, check out the latest designs available. More and more brands are coming out with models that offer the freedom of a cordless design, with the power of an upright.

Why buy a cordless

Cordless vacuums work with battery power, so there are no cords to get in the way of your cleaning path as you work, and there's no need to plug them in, so you can easily move from room to room. They're also usually much lighter than other vacuums, which makes them easier to use on stairs.

Available in the handheld, stick and upright categories, cordless vacuums are great for quickly cleaning up small messes, like cereal that gets knocked over in the kitchen or dirt that's tracked in by kids and pets. Use them to clean crumbs out of crevices and hard-to-reach places. Cordless handhelds are useful for above-the-floor cleaning needs, such as windows, and upholstery. They're portable enough to use on car interiors or wherever you need a quick clean-up.

Dust container

Most cordless models are bagless, so dust and dirt collects in a dust bin or container that you empty into the trash. Some models have a clear dust bin so you can easily see when it's full.


Power, in cordless vacuums, is measured in volts (V). Vacuums with higher voltage will deliver more suction power and clean better.


Before buying a cordless, consider the battery charge time and run time. Charge time is how long it takes the battery to charge, and run time is how long the charge will last.